Picture preview: Gerhard Richter's previously unseen November series

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

In this extract from a book of Richter's drawings Dieter Schwarz hails the paper-based interesting additions to his oeuvre

As he was decanting black Edding marker-pen ink, Gerhard Richter found himself watching the ink dripping onto some paper. So, toying with this idea, he tipped some ink onto other sheets and started to use a variety of means to manipulate its flow.

He thinned it with benzene or acetone and added black tusche and other ingredients; as he did so the colour of the fluid changed, developing reddish and blueish hues. Since the paper Richter used for this was highly absorbent, the ink soaked through to the back of the sheets creating two related, reversed images, one on either side. The inks mixed with solvents then soaked down through the stack of sheets leaving ever fainter marks, which linked the figurations together like echoes.

In a few cases Richter applied lacquer to one side of the sheet, or drew pencil lines across the patches of colour, marking particular moments in the flow of shapes. This contemplative game with inks, with Richter leafing forwards and backwards through the sheets, produced twenty-seven two-sided works that follow in a sequence determined by their making. As so often in his long career as a painter, Richter was initially wary of the outcome of this process, set the ensemble aside and postponed his final judgement on it.

One of the distinguishing features of Richter’s working methods is that he is rarely, if ever, satisfied with his own initial gesture, and as a rule subjects it to a lengthy process of critical scrutiny, revision and reworking, from which a work ultimately arises whose substance may by now have progressed far beyond what might have originally appeared to be the artist’s intention.

This is particularly apparent in the case of certain paintings that Richter photographed at various stages during their making. In so doing, he is no different to other painters from the past who have favoured a similar form of self-critique. However, in Richter’s case there is another aspect to this process, which can be seen very well in the November sheets and which could be described as a synthetic reworking. At the same time, it would be wrong to view this as a concept or a method, for the nature of this post-production process is always different, depending on the circumstances of the work in question.

In order to exhibit it in its entirety, facsimiles had to be made of the backs of the seven sheets that had been worked on both sides. Richter subsequently observed that few viewers were able to distinguish the original sheets from the ink-jet reproductions – in an instance of the unintentional confusion of reality and its likeness. When he then returned to November three years after its making, he had a complete set of facsimiles made because this was the only way to view both sides of the twenty-seven sheets at the same time and to come to any conclusions regarding the entire series.

The ensuing sequence, with its regular alternation of recto and verso, conveyed the sense of an almost mechanical process in the virtually symmetrical pairs of images. This series of mirror-image situations gave rise to an interesting factor that Richter had not hitherto been able to deploy so directly in either his drawings or watercolours. In these “reflections” each motif was juxtaposed with its own mirror image, in other words, a particular mimetic relationship ensued, in the sense that the likenesses do not replicate a motif in the usual way but re-present it in reverse.

At the same time, the likeness is so faithful that it is hard to distinguish it from the original motif, indeed the relationship can be reversed – the original and the likeness can be interchanged or become impossible to tell apart. Richter has used reflections in various ways in his work. The pose of the painter checking the accuracy of his own work in a hand-held mirror is familiar from photographs. And in addition to the crystal clear or coloured mirrors that are interspersed in amongst the paintings in Richter’s catalogue raisonné, there are also apparent reflections included in the photographs that make up 128 Details from a Picture (1978) and in the picture sequences in his photo-book Eis (2011). The book War Cut (2004) is constructed from enlarged details of a painting, which are arranged in a complex, self-mirroring sequence.

In his November suite Richter now had material to hand that was by definition an invitation to incorporate the notion of reflection into the work. Not only were there sheets with a mirror image of the motif on the reverse; in some cases the ink that had soaked through layers of sheets created what looked like visual echoes. These factors led to a multiplicity of internal connections that provided a structure for the sequence of images.

Translated from German by Fiona Elliott

800 signed and numbered limited editions of Gerhard Richter's latest book November, consisting of 54 unseen works in ink, will be available from 20 March exclusively at Tate

Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
    Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

    They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

    A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
    David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

    Hanging with the Hoff

    Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
    Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

    Hipsters of Arabia

    Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
    The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

    The cult of Roger Federer

    What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
    Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

    Malaysian munchies

    With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
    10 best festival beauty

    Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

    Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

    A Different League

    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

    Steve Bunce on Boxing

    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf